Mental Health Watch: Report finds ‘widespread evidence of poor care’

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Picture posed by models/Newscast Online - Credit: Newscast Online

A union representing mental health workers in Norfolk and Suffolk has echoed financial warnings made in a report highlighting 'widespread evidence of poor care' in services nationally.

Unison at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust said the findings of the King's Fund's report 'came as no surprise and bears out a lot of the concerns that staff have been raising in the past couple of years'.

The review says the mental health sector is under 'huge pressure' with around 40% of trusts experiencing budget cuts in the past year.

It highlights evidence of poor-quality care and claims bed occupancy is 'frequently well above recommended levels'.

Large scale changes to save costs are described as a 'leap in the dark', which may have come at the expense of patient care and reductions in the number of experienced staff.

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Unison said the changes in Norfolk Suffolk were 'at best a guess with a lot of risks involved'.

'The problem was that if referrals went up we would not have capacity to cope and that's exactly what happened,' a spokesman added.

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Unison said that while staff remained passionate about helping people they were facing increasingly difficult circumstances brought about through financial challenges.

Though recent government funding announcements have been welcomed, the spokesman said it was 'disingenuous' to refer to them as new investments as they were only 'repairing some of the damage already done'.

This newspaper's Mental Health Watch campaign has called for parity of funding with physical health services, which Unison says would require at least a further £30 million invested annually.

'Despite the best efforts of the board, our view is that is impossible to put right what needs to be right without fairer funding,' the spokesman added. 'Without that the government are essentially asking the board to do their job with their hands tied behind their back.'

The minister responsible for mental health, Alistair Burt said 'great strides' had been taken in the national approach to mental health.

'We have given the NHS more money than ever before, with an increase to £11.7 billion last year, and are introducing access and waiting time targets for the first time,' he added.

'We have made it clear that local NHS services must follow our lead by increasing the amount they spend on mental health and making sure beds are always available.

'As well as providing care for those in crisis, it is right that we invest in helping people early on so they can avoid that crisis and manage their conditions with support at home rather than in hospital.'

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